It was among his preseason goals, admits Champlin Park High School senior JT Gibson during his brief remarks as he accepted the 2015 Minnesota Mr. Basketball award Tuesday, April 7.
“Before the season started, I wrote down a list of goals — I wanted to win Metro Player of the Year, to go undefeated to state — I also wrote [winning] Mr. Basketball down,” said Gibson at a short after-school reception at the school’s media center. Those present included his parents, coaches, teachers, family members, friends, teammates and others, and his Wayman AME Church family.
“This was the best season I ever had,” said Gibson of the team’s 31-1 season, losing its only game by three points in the state Class 4A finals in March. He also was named Metro Player of the Year and the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year last month, as well. Before the season he signed to play next season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Gibson is the fifth consecutive Black Mr. Basketball and 16th player of color, which includes Greg Downing, who was the first Black to win the award in 1979. DeLaSalle teammates Sacar Anim and Jarvis Johnson, and Marshawn Wilson of Hill-Murray, were also finalists. Tyus Jones, now a Duke freshman who won the Most Outstanding Player award after the Blue Devils, won the national championship Monday, and was named Mr. Basketball in 2014.
Only eight Black females, however, have been named Ms. Basketball during the same time period. Some community folk have soured on such awards after Minneapolis Henry’s Tracy Henderson, considered the state’s best girls high school basketball player in 1994, was bypassed by the Ms. Basketball committee for an outstate player supposedly because they didn’t like her on-court attitude.
Explained Robinson, “The people who serve on the Mr. Basketball committee either are ex-coaches or officials and have no ties with any of the schools whatsoever. I understand that’s not true when it comes to looking at Ms. Basketball. There are coaches who served on that committee who were coaching in the high schools and might have some biases that might have taken years ago when Tracy was [up for the award]. Unfortunately that happened, and fortunately it has raised awareness of people who served on that committee.”
Gibson is appreciative of his win this year. “I believe this award is a blessing from God,” he said. “He is very humble, hard-working, God-fearing son,” said JT’s father Daryl Gibson. “He’s a kid who doesn’t like the spotlight. All he likes to do is play basketball,” added his mother, Rev. Tracey Gibson. “He’s respectful and has a winning attitude.”
Their son told the MSR that he wrote his individual and team goals last September. “My main goal was to win the state championship. I was still hurt coming off that loss when my coach came to me” and told him that he won the award.
“I am the only person of color” on the nine-person Mr. Basketball committee, said James Robinson, who supervises state high school basketball officials. He told the MSR that Gibson has been on their watch list since his junior year. “We saw JT play in the sections final last year,” recalled Robinson. “We knew back then he would be one of our candidates along with Sacar and Jarvis.”
Winning Mr. Basketball isn’t about scoring, noted Robinson. “There are people who have scored more points than what he [Gibson] has. They are not Mr. Basketball.” Committee chairman Ken Lien listed character, making his teammates better, and academics as key qualifications in selecting the winner each year.
Gibson said being listed among the list of past winners — which includes Khalid El-Amin (1997), Jim Petersen (1980), Randy Breuer (1979) and Kevin McHale (1976) among others — “is a great feeling. I am blessed and honored to get this award,” he said. “It tells me that hard work really does work, and I worked very hard to be in this position as a player and an individual, and my hard work paid off.
“I thank God, my family and friends for supporting me,” he concluded.
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